Outside of academia, anyone embarking on a new enterprise—a software
startup, a housing development, a widget factory—is likely to incur a certain
degree of nancial indebtedness. But we academics deal in a different cur-
rency; in the course of doing research, we usually accumulate intellectual,
not nancial, debts, and our moral economy dictates that we repay what we
owe with our own peculiar bitcoin: profuse expressions of gratitude in the
book’s acknowledgments. Having run up an enormous bill over the many
years during which I have researched and written this book, in the next few
pages I will try to acquit myself honorably and metaphorically reimburse the
many friends and colleagues to whom I am, in truth, forever indebted. But
I worry that there will be some people who, early on, suggested sources or
offered ideas whose origin I’ve long since forgotten; it’s even possible that,
against my better scholarly judgment, I’ve tricked myself into thinking that
I came up with a particular idea all by myself. The eminent sociologist Rob-
ert K. Merton, apparently disgruntled that his colleagues were not citing him
quite enough, termed a larger- scale version of this process “obliteration by
incorporation”—by which he meant the way certain ideas get so embedded
in the disciplinary “common sense” that they become untraceable to their
original “inventor.” Unlike Merton, I’m inclined to regard ideas as emerging
from a collective process, not one individual person’s “genius,” so I’m hoping
I can count on the generosity of the academic community and assume that
my colleagues will not feel too “obliterated” should I inadvertently neglect to
thank them for some excellent idea or suggestion that richly deserves to be
acknowledged but whose origins have been rendered obscure by time.
There are three people who have been exceptionally supportive at various
points in my ongoing struggle to nish this book, and to whom I owe an espe-
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